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Skate Night At the Park

There was and still is nothing like it. The outdoor ice rink at Wheeling Park, built in 1959, became a mecca for teens and even younger kids every Friday and Saturday night. At least that was the case when I was growing up in the 1960s and early ’70s.

It’s all we talked about in school on Fridays from October to the end of the ice season. “Are you going tonight? Whose mom is driving this week? If my mom drops us off, can your mom or dad pick us up?” Transportation was the biggest issue for deciding if skating was in the picture on any given weekend. The skate rink is located “out the pike” and was not within walking distance for many of us. Since most of my friends came from large families, it was a matter of seeing how many kids could fit in the family station wagon at one time. Rides home from skating often meant two or three kids sitting on one another’s laps for the journey. Seatbelts were optional at that point.

I was fortunate to have my own ice skates during those primary years as my mom believed all that circling around on ice was good exercise. Several of my brothers played ice hockey at the rink as part of WAHA. All of their equipment and our skates hung on hooks leading downstairs to the basement. When you outgrew a pair of skates, you handed them down to a younger sibling. If they proved to be a bit too large, you were told to just put on two pairs of socks. The concession stand at the rink had the usual assortment of goodies including popcorn and that hot chocolate that tasted so good on those really cold nights. I can still hear the sound of those swinging doors that led out to the rink and the loud thump when someone crashed into the wooden dasher boards.

Many young romances blossomed or dissolved at the ice rink. It’s where boys learned how to chase girls and where girls pretended not to notice. Holding hands was the first sign of two people being called “a couple” at the tender age of 12 or 13.

The ice rink was romantic, it was exhilarating, too. Nothing compared to whirling around on ice while a gentle snow fell around you. Now I wait with great anticipation to see what the Wheeling Park Commission has in store for a planned renovation of the facility so that the ice rink will continue to offer memories for generations to come.

Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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